3 Steps to Effective Moderation While Conducting Qualitative Research


       How confident are you in moderating conversations and discussions with research participants? In my experience, there is nothing worse than a participant speaking to a researcher for an hour that is monotone and deadpan. It only makes for frustrated and fatigued participants. During a session, the user’s shut down emotionally and become unwilling to share details because they just want the interview to be over. Effective moderating is the art of building rapport instantaneously with a user, resulting in a more holistic and robust data-driven story for your stakeholders.

So, what does it mean to moderate?

Conduct a controlled conversation among a group of individuals.

     Imagine being tasked with understanding how and why users shop online for furniture. A qualitative method to uncovering such findings and insights; moderated interviews with users. So, how do you get the information you need from the user without boring yourself and them?

  • Know your Goal!

      It’s important to know your objectives inside and out. Why are you doing this work and what questions will it take to get a full scope of the user’s motivations? Let’s go back to our original research question, “Why do people shop online for furniture?” Are the questions you’re asking getting you to the gold? If not, resort back to the client and product goals.

  • Listen with your Ears and Eyes!

      As researchers, our goal is to listen to what we hear and what we see. Look for behaviors that support or negate the user’s story. For our online furniture shoppers, listen to what they shop for in comparison to their current furniture and style. Are there similarities in their stories and in their environment? Either way, that’s an insight. Be mindful not to over talk participants. They’ll tell you what you want to hear if you listen.

  • Ask Why 5 Times!

      Targeted questioning helps keep the discussion on track and allows you to get to the root or cause of the problem. Although this iterative technique is called “5 Whys,” you may find that you will need to ask the question fewer or more times than five before you find the issue related to a problem. This simple tool is easy to use without statistical analysis.

     So, why is it important to know how to do moderate effectively?

     Creating rapport with participants to make the experience as realistic as possible, create opportunities to unearth new and unexpected themes and theories. Therefore, synthesizing the data produces a robust data-driven story for your stakeholders. You’ll spend less time creating the story and more time contextualizing it. Remember, you’re the expert! Client’s look for researchers that ask the questions they don’t always know to ask. Create rapport, so you can give your client’s more.  


READ MORE: Wondering Which to Use? A Comparison of Quantitative vs. Qualitative UX Research Methods, Unmoderated Online vs. Moderated Onsite Studies, How Data Storytelling Builds Empathy, Engaging Stakeholders in UX Research

More by this Author


Add Comment